Road racing is run by three organisations, the main one being British Cycling, with the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists organising races for riders over 40, and The League International who coordinate road races based upon handicapping to ensure that riders are among fellow competitors of an appropriate level of ability. These organisations have their own rules which ensure that races are well organised and run safely.
Further information on these organisations can be found on their websites:
- British Cycling
- League of Veteran Cyclists
- The League International
Races are one of two types; either multiple laps of a short course – these races are called criteriums or crits – or a road race, which is multiple laps of a circuit on the highway.
The crits have laps ranging from 1-2 miles in length with the race running from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the standard of the riders and the race. Crits take place on closed roads, often on military bases (Ludgershall) or race tracks (Castle Combe). Each race has a limit of either 60 or 80 riders, and usually these types of races are entered on the line, i.e. you just turn up an hour before the race starts and sign on, pin on your race number, and then race.
A Road Race might be between 4 and 8 laps of a much larger lap, such that the race lasts for 2 hours or more, again depending on the rider standard, and will be on roads open to traffic with motorcycle escorts to help clear the way for riders. Road races have to be entered before the closing date which is usually weeks before the day of the race. Entries are limited to 60 or 80 riders, and organisers may chose who they would like to ride, so there might be a limit on the number of riders from a particular club for example.
The Cotswold League
Bath Cycling Club is one of the member clubs of the Cotswold League. This is a series of 8 Regional A (2/3/4cat) road races throughout the season and 2 Regional B (3/4cat) support races. The club organises one round and is guaranteed, an entry of at least 6 riders in the other races. This gives members a great advantage in entry to races as normally the races are oversubscribed.
What is a racing licence and do I need one?
To enter a cycle race you need a licence, which among other things, provides insurance for yourself. You can buy a day licence for £10 if you maybe want to try a single criterium, but you won’t get any points for getting a place in the top ten.
If you want to know why you need to worry about that, then see below about categories. If you want to have a proper go at racing (which you probably will once you’ve tried it), then it’s best to get a Full Racing Licence for the whole year. The full racing licence runs from the start to the end of the year and costs £34 for 2020, but if you get one in July onwards then you’ll only pay for half of the year. You can’t just buy the licence though, you’ll also need to have either Silver (£38) or Gold (£66) British Cycling membership.
What are these Cats that everyone talks about?
To make the races more fun and with a more level playing field, riders are categorised according to their ability. This is a bit like the old football divisions. A new racer will start as a Cat 4 and if they manage to get 10 points within a single season then they are promoted to 3rd Cat. Once you’re a 3rd Cat you can’t be demoted. To get a 2nd Cat licence you’ll need to get 40 points whilst holding a 3rd Cat licence, and to keep it you’ll need to get 25 points in the season. Cat 1 requires yet more points and the top level of Elite yet more. If you get to that point you’ll know lots about racing so I won’t write about it here!
What are the Cats used for?
If you look at a race listing, it will say which level or rider is eligible to ride in that race. As a beginner you will start as a 4th Cat, so you might be able to find a 4th Cat only race early on in the season, this will likely be a 30 minute crit. Quite often the 4th Cats are lumped in with the 3rds so you’ll see 3/4 in the listing. 3/4 races will extend from crits into the world of the road race which is about 45 miles or 2 hours long. Beyond that level, races are usually either 2/3/4 or E/1/2/3 which are much harder.
What events are there?
Finding events to enter is getting easier now that they appear on the British Cycling Calendar. This link will show you all the events in the South region which is the region that Bath is in. A good place to start if you don’t mind the cold is the Ludgershall winter series, as it’s a short circuit with no hills, and only 30 minutes long for the 4th Cats, or you could wait for things to warm up and head off to Castle Combe on Thursday nights over the summer. I’d recommend starting with a crit before stepping up to a road race, but the choice is yours.
Bath CC racers also have a race and training planner to coordinate attending races and doiong training rides. You need to sign up and be approved to use the planner.
The Provisional Road Race Calender can be found Bath CC Race Programme 2020 v2
How fit do I need to be?
You certainly need to be up to a reasonable standard, and comfortable at riding in a tightly packed group. If you’ve not been on a club run yet, then I strongly recommend you do this a few times first before even thinking about racing. You need to be able to ride in a safe and predictable way in the middle of a large pack, and a race is not the place to learn this. Unfortunately lots of people don’t follow this advice and dive straight in, which leads to a few crashes in the lower category races. Please come along on a Sunday club run, and ideally on the Saturday chain gang to get a feel for what to expect. Races up at Castle Combe will average around 23mph for an hour in the 3/4 race, so make sure you can keep up with that, but remember sitting in the group is a lot easier than being on the front!
Can I ride any bike?
You’ll certainly need a proper racing bike (no mudguards), a licence and a helmet. If you want the full rules, check the British Cycling Rulebook.
Come along on a club ride to learn more and to ask people who know about road racing. The Sunday Club run is longer but slower with a stop for coffee at the halfway point, whilst the Saturday chaingang always follows the same 42 mile loop with 2 hours being the target for the fast group, with a coffee in Chelsea Road afterwards.
Come for a ride with us, and hopefully join our Club and start racing, new members are always welcome.
Have a good ride!